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History of Religion. opposite sentiments. The same infirmity still drags them downwards, froin an omnipotent and spiritual deity, to a limited and corporeal one, and from a corporeal and limited deity to a statue or visible representation. The same endeavour at elevation still pushes thein upwards, from the statue or material image to the invisible power; and from the invisible power to an infinitely perfect deity, the creator and sovereign of the universe.
Sect. IX. Comparison of these Religions, with regard
to Perfecution and Toleration.
it; androus orat any pra
Polytheism or idolatrous worship, being founded entirely in vulgar traditions, is liable to this great inconvenience, that any practice or opinion, however" barbarous or corrupted, may be authorized by it; and full scope is given, for knavery to impose on credulity, till morals and humanity be expelled the religious system of mankind. At the same time, idolatry is attended with this evident advantage, that, 'by limiting the powers and functions of its deities, it naturally admits the gods of other fects and nations to a share of divinity, and renders all the various deities, as well as rites, cereinonies, or traditions, compatible with each other * Theism is opposite both in its advantages and disadvantages. As that system supposes one fole deity, the perfection of reason and goodness, it should, if justly profecuted, banish every thing 'frivolous, unreasonable, or inhuman from religious worship, and set before men the moft illustrious example, as well as the most commanding motives, of justice and benevolence. These mighty advantages are not indeed over-balanced (for that is not possible), but somewhat
.* See NOTE (AAA).
diminished, by inconveniencies, which arise from the vices and prejudices of mankind. While one sole object of devotion is acknowledged, the worship of other deities is regarded as absurd and impious. Nay,' this unity of object seems natu, rally to require the unity of faith and ceremo
nies, and furnishes designing men with a pretence for representing their adversaries' as profane, and the objects of divine as well as human vengeance. For as each sect is positive that its own faith 'and worship are entirely acceptable to the deity, and as no one can conceive, that the same being should be pleased with different and opposite rites and principles; the several sects fall naturally into animosity, and mutually discharge on each other that sacred zeal and rancour, the most furious and implacable of all human passions.
The tolerating spirit of idolaters, both in ancient and modern times, is very obvious to any one, who is the least conversant in the writings of historians or travellers. When the oracle of Delphi was asked, what rites or worship was most acceptable to the gods? Those which are legally established in each city, replied the oracle *. Even priests in those ages, could, it seems, allow salvation to those of a different communion. The Romans commonly adopted the Gods of the conquered people; and never disputed the attributes of those local and national deities, in whose territories they resided. The religious wars and persecutions of the Egyptian idolaters are indeed an exception to this rule; but are accounted for by ancient authors from reasons fingular and remarkable. Different species of animals were the deities of the different seats among the Egyptians; and the deities being in continual war,
* Xenoph. Memor. lib. ii.
magined i contributions wole of Delphions, which
ge contro the templet all religios semark
engaged their votaries in the same contention. The worshippers of dogs could not long reinain in peace with che adorers of cats or wolves *. But where that reason took not place, the Egyptian fuperftition was not so incompatible as is commonly imagined ; since we learn from Herodotus †, that very large contributions were given by Amasis towards rebuilding the temple of Delphi.
The intolerance of almost all religions, which have maintained the unity of God, is as remarkable as the contrary principle of polytheists. The implacable narrow spirit of the Jews is well known. Mahometanism set out with still more bloody principles; and even to this day, deals out damnation, though not fire and faggot, to all Other sects. And if, among Christians, the English and Dutch have embraced the principles of toleration, this singularity has proceeded from the steady resolution of the civil magistrate, in opposition to the continued efforts of priests and bigots.
The disciples of Zoroafter shut the doors of heaven against all but the Magians I. Nothing could more obstruct the progress of the Persian conquefls, than the furious zeal of that nation against the temples and images of the Greeks. And after the overthrow of that einpire we find Alexander, as a polytheist, immediately re-establishing the worship of the Babylonians, which their former princes, as monotheists, had carefully abolished ll. Even the blind and devoted attachment of that conqueror to the Greek superftition hindered not but he himself sacrificed according to the Babylonish ceremonies. S.
1. So ' So sociable is polytheism, that the utinost fierceness and antipathy, which it meets within an opposite religion, is scarcely able to disguit it, and keep it at a distance. Auguftus praised extremely the reserve of his grandson, Caius Cæsar, when this latter prince, passing by Jerusalem, deigned not to sacrifice according to the Jewish law. But for what reason did Auguftus so much approve of this conduct? Only, because that religion was by the Pagans esteemed ignoble and barbarous*,
* Plutarch, de Ifid. & Ofiride. + Lib. i. fub fine. | Hyde de Relig. vet. Persarum.. H Arrian. de Exped. lib. iii. Id. lib. vij. Ś Id, ibid.
I may venture to affirm, that few corruptions of idolatry and polytheism are more pernicious to society than this corruption of theism t, when carried to the utmost height. The human facrifices of the Carthaginians, Mexicans, and many barbarous nations I, scarcely exceed the inquisition and persecutions of Rome and Madrid. For besides, that the effusion of blood may not be fo great in the former case as in the latter; befides this, I say, the human victims, being chosen by loty, or by fome exterior signs, affect not, in so considerable a degree, the rest of the fociety. Whereas yirtue, knowledge, love of liberty, are the qualities, which call down the fatal vengeance of inquisitors; and when expelled, leave the society in the most shameful ignorance, corruption, and bondage. The illegal murder of one man by a tyrant is more pernicious than the death of a thousand by pestilence, famine, or any undiftinguishing calamity. • In the temple of Diana at Aricia near Rome, whoever' murdered the present priest, was legally entitled to be installed his succefforl. A very singular institution! For, how
* Sueton. in vita Aug. C. 93. f Corruptio optimi pekima. I See NOTE [BBB]. || Strabo, lib. v. Sueton. in vita Cal.
ever barbarous and bloody the common superftitions often are to the laity, they usually turn to the advantage of the holy order.
they usually fuper
of the holy
Sect. X. With regard to courage or abasement
From the comparison of theism and idolatry, we may form some other observations, which will also confirm the vulgar observation, that the corruption of the best things gives rise to the worst.
Where the deity is represented as infinitely superior to mankind, this belief, though altogether just, is apt, when joined with superstitious terrors, to sink the human mind in the lowest submission and abasement, and to represent the monkish virtues of mortification, pennace, humility, and passive suffering, as the only qualities which are acceptable to him. But where the gods are conceived to be only a little superior to mankind, and to have been, many of them, advanced from that inferior rank, we are more at our ease in our addresses to them, and may even, without profaneness, aspire sometimes to a rivalship and emulation of them. Hence activity, spirit, courage, magnanimity, love of liberty, and all the virtues which aggrandize a people.
The heroes in paganism correspond exactly to the saints in popery and holy dervises in Mahometanism. The place of Hercules, Theseus, Hector, Romulus, is now supplied by Doininic, Francis, Anthony, and Benedict. Instead of the destruction of monsters, the subduing of tyrants, the defence of our native country; whippings and faftings, cowardice and humility, abject fubmifsion and savilh obedience, are become the means of obtaining celestial honours among man